Nothing beats face-to-face contact, but telepresence aims to come exceptionally close. By integrating a set of high-performance visual, audio, and network technologies and services, people who are geographically separated can interact in a way that captures many of the best aspects of an in-person experience.
When it is possible to exist and function remotely, the need to travel becomes less necessary. In a world of global-business footprints and international collaboration, if people can work together without being in the same place, they can dodge a host of travel-related emissions.
Telepresence now comes to life in a variety of ways and a diversity of settings. From companies and schools to hospitals and museums, virtual interaction is opening new possibilities. Using a mobile telepresence robot, a surgeon can advise on a rare procedure in real time, without traveling from Austin to Amman, for example. Or, executives in telepresence conference rooms in Sydney and Singapore can debate a possible acquisition without taking a single flight.
Telepresence affords many other benefits: cost savings from avoided travel, less grueling schedules for employees, more productive remote meetings, the ability to make decisions more quickly, and enhanced interpersonal connection across geographies.
Robert Heinlein…idea of telepresence: Heinlein, Robert A. Waldo & Magic, Inc. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1950.
Marvin Minsky… coined the term: Minsky, Marvin. “Telepresence.” OMNI Magazine. June 1980.
[potential to] cut…emissions: Lee, Lisa, and Antonin Shanahan. The Telepresence Revolution. London: Carbon Disclosure Project, 2010.
Payback…one to two years: Lee and Shanahan, Revolution.